Zero Tolerance: Should 7 Year Old Boy Be Expelled From School For Bringing A Toy Gun?

A 7 year old boy in Florida last November was expelled from school for having a toy gun in his backpack.  A year later he is still expelled and everyone from the news to parent organizations are torn as to whether the Zero Tolerance Rule has gone too far or if it is appropriate.

Zero Tolerance Sign

Children naturally love to show and tell.  They find anything they can and “hide” it in their backpack.  Sometimes they take it out, sometimes they forget it, and sometimes they just decide to leave it there and play with it when they get home.  There are so many children with toy guns, and rarely do they just use their fingers to “shoot” during their imaginative games.  With nerf guns, dollar store plastic guns, water guns, chocolate guns, candy guns, and countless other varieties, where do we draw the line?  

If this is a family with a history of bad behavior and gun usage, then there may be some more power to the story. If this is a child with many psychological problems including behavioral and aggression, then we would have to discuss more. However, simply bringing a plastic toy gun to school and being expelled from school at the age of seven is a tough one.  Would it make more sense to give the parents the consequence for even buying it for him?  For not checking his backpack?  For negligence?  At least the kid would still be in school.     

What if he was ten and had that plastic gun?  I would ask the same questions.  If he is a kind and sweet seven-year-old or ten-year-old from a good family, would having a toy gun be so bad?  Many times adults take things out on the children instead of the parents.  Many times the adults are quick to punish without really trying to understand the underlying reasons behind a child’s actions.  

If a student brings a toy gun to school, should the parents be held accountable or not?

Should he still be expelled?

Share  your opinions in the comments on this story below:

7 replies
  1. Robyn
    Robyn says:

    Deborah,
    You make a good point, knowing who the child is and their background is essential to understanding where the fault lays. In this case, I personally believe the school may have “jumped the gun” (pun intended) here. As a mother of a preschooler, there have been many times my daughter has put random toys of hers in her backpack without my knowledge. I can’t blame the child for owning a toy an adult bought him…
    The real question is, if toy guns are “illegal” in schools, should they be in your house in the first place? I think the parents need to take some fault here and the School needs to lessen the punishment a bit!

  2. maureen
    maureen says:

    As the parent whose oldest child was involved in the Hubbard Woods School shooting 20 years ago, I have an almost visecral reaction to guns on campus. That said, I think a truly valuable teaching moment was lost in the case of the expelled 7 year old. All he and his classmates learned is that school is not a safe place to make a mistake. Children can weaponize lego’s! We have all seen our children fashion guns out of sticks. What matters here are the behaviors. In the Hubbard Woods incident, a woman with a history of violent behaviors walked into an elementary school wielding several hand guns and one automatic weapon and shot 4 children killing an 8 year old boy and leaving invisible scars on many others. This young women had exhibited violent and deranged behaviors for several years and never received sustained mental health treatment. Her family is culpable for neglect at the very least. The 7 year old Florida boy did not have a history of violent behavior. To villainize him only serves to magnify the reality that most schools do not adequately know how to differentiate between an incident that could have been resloved in an instructive manner and a policy that does not provide for any nuances. Go to School night provides a perfect forum for discussing the importance of safety and what is acceptable to bring to school and to reinforce the necessity of consistent communication between home and school. This child should not have been victimized, he should have been enlightened.

  3. Deborah
    Deborah says:

    First of all, wow! Thank you for sharing. I hope this kid does not get obsessed with guns and hatred of school for how they acted….. We have to know the mental status of all of the children and parents in our distric and do what is needed to stop horrible things from happening.. Wow….Thank you…

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